Kenneth Williams as Rambling Syd Rumpo - The Ballad of the Wogglers Moulie
I’ve never been able to quite adequately explain my (and the British’ as a whole) fascination with innuendo and double-entendre. Certainly it’s formed a cornerstone of the British sense of humour for centuries, at the very least, but it doesn’t always translate across the continents.
Back in the 1750s, dramatist Edward Moore wrote an article, where he described the double-entendre as “that happy art, by which persons of fashion may communicate the loosest ideas under the most innocent expressions”. In other words, saying something innocent or meaningless, which has a filthy undertone. “For though the double entendre may sometimes admit of a moral interpretation as well as a wanton one, it is never intended to be understood but one way:,” Moore said, “and he must be a simple fellow indeed, and totally unacquainted with good company, who does not take it as it was meant.”
Rarely has it been better articulated than by Kenneth Williams, who honed the art on radio in Round the Horne and on film in the Carry On series. Both of which I’ve adored from childhood. Not, I think, because of the hidden filth, but because it was simply a case of an adult saying something which sounded utterly silly. Rambling Syd’s the best example of this, dripping with intendre in his numerous made up words, which was something I loved as a child. Roald Dahl and Dickens also had a great gift of enriching the language with ridiculous words and names, but without the double-intendre that Kenneth Williams obviously so adored..